About

My name is Lisandro Pérez and I write  Cuban New Yorker.  CasablancaHemingway2

I am Professor and Chair of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. My academic career has been devoted primarily to the study of Cuba and, especially, the Cuban presence in the United States. I hold a Ph.D. in Sociology and Latin American Studies from the University of Florida. For twenty-five years I served on the faculty of Florida International University, where I chaired the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and founded that university’s Cuban Research Institute, which I directed for thirteen years. I also served as the editor of the journal Cuban Studies, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. I have authored numerous publications on Cuba and Cuban Americans, including The Legacy of Exile: Cubans in the United States (with Guillermo Grenier, published by Allyn and Bacon, 2003) and articles in the Journal of Latin American Studies, the Latin American Research Review, the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the International Migration Review, and Cuban Studies. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Miami Herald. 

I moved to New York in July 2010 to accept the position at John Jay College and immerse myself in my most recent research project: a history of the Cuban presence in New York in the nineteenth century. I initiated this project in 2004 with support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library. My recent publications from this project include “Cubans in Nineteenth-Century New York: A Story of Sugar, War, and Revolution,”  which appeared in Nueva York, 1613-1945, the companion book to the exhibit of the same name organized by the New York Historical Society and displayed at the Museo del Barrio in the Fall of 2010.  I also authored the essay “New York City” in the two-volume reference work on Cuba published by Charles Scribner’s and Sons in 2012.

Cuban New Yorker responds to my interest in sharing with an audience beyond academia my observations and reflections from the perspective of someone who knows about Cuba and encounters New York, both as a resident and as a scholar. I may write some things about Cuba, some things about New York, but mostly I will post essays about people, events, and places, now and in the past, in which Cuba and New York come together; in other words, Cuba in New York. I hope to do so with an approach and style that is entertaining and with a content that is original, a blog that people enjoy reading but where they, hopefully, can learn something they did not know before.

A few personal notes, in case they are of interest. I was born in Havana in 1949 and migrated to the U.S. with my parents in 1960. In 1979 I returned to the island for the first time, and have been visiting ever since, most recently in December 2016. I live in Washington Heights with my wife Liza (whose frequent counterpoints to my observations will undoubtedly work their way into one or another posting) and with two black cats, who miss Miami, named Flaqui and Blaqui. You will be glad to know that they will not make their way into any posting. I have cats, but I am not a cat person, if you know what I mean.

24 responses to “About

  1. Marisel Moreno

    Esto está super chévere Lisandro, ¡buena idea!

  2. Very creative, Lisandro. Look forward to the coming treasures. Where is your article on “Nineteenth Century New York” available?

  3. Por fin tengo tiempo de sentarme a leer por placer y que gusto me he dado… Muchas gracias! Me siento tan orgullosa de ti!!! Martica

  4. Joseph Michael

    Thank you for following….I am glad we, as Cubans can stick together! Thank you for being so smart and knowledgeable!!!

  5. I didn’t know Cuban Newyorker existed. Even though I’ve been a Cubanonuevayorkino, for over 50 years.
    Thanks to Leon Ichaso, now I’m connected. I guess.
    Ivan Acosta

    • Thank you, Mr. Acosta. Cuban New Yorker has not been around for as long as you have been in New York. It is only a year old. Perhaps you or Mr. Ichaso can let the readers of Cuban New Yorker know where or when or how they can view the new remastered version of El Súper. I know it was shown recently in Miami at a conference at Florida International University. Perhaps we can arrange a showing here at CUNY. Thanks for your interest — and for El Súper, a classic.

  6. Good evening Doctor Perez,

    I’m a student at the NewSchool and also have a Cuban background- my entire family is Cuban and migrated to New York and then to Miami,Fl, where I was born. I’m really interested in learning more about Cuban-New Yorker interactions, and recently even more so because I’ve just started working on an identity project. I will focus on interviewing Cubans that have been or have affected New York City (as the identity project has to relate to this city…) I was really pleased to come across your blog because it provides me with loads of information (and makes me feel like I’m back in my grandparents’ house, listening to their stories and memories about a country I feel I’ll never be able to meet) but I would still really enjoy meeting you sometime, whenever you’re free, so that I could listen to your perspective on a number of different questions I have. I don’t know if this is something you’d be interested in, or even have time for, but I figured asking was the one way to find out.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for creating this blog- it’s great.

    Best,
    Amanda

  7. Dr. Perez,

    This is an amazing blog! As a Cuban American in New York originally from Miami, it has definitely piqued my interest in learning about Cubans living in New York, especially during the 19th century.

    I am currently reading Jose Luciano Franco’s biography on Maceo and looking for lectures and discussions covering the 1860-1900 period. I look forward to reading more of your articles and hearing from you!

    Pablo G. Velez

  8. Great blog Dr Perez, I specially enjoyed the piece on being wary of packages, explosions, etc as it mirrored my experiences as a child in 1950’s Cuba. I believe we are related on my mother’s side (Fonts).

    Best Regards,

    J. Bell

  9. Do you have any suggestions where to find similar research about the same time period you cover in your C-span Cuba/NY in the 19th century lecture where the relationship between Cuba and New Orleans is explored? I read some time ago where 20,000 people (mostly French) from Louisiana in the 1820’s migrated to Cuba. That is a lot of people.

  10. Hi Lisandro,

    My name is Chris Vázquez and I just moved to Hoboken from Miami in August to begin working for UBS in Jersey. I’m a fellow Gator (graduated in May) and Cuba enthusiast. While at UF I began working for a nonprofit called Inspire Cubanthat aims to provide humanitarian aid to the Cuban people through collaboration with the Church and various other projects. I now serve as the Executive Director for that organization and it’s been so rewarding helping a community I care so much about. All four of my abuelos fled Cuba in the early 60s and they basically raised me, so my culture has always been an incredibly big part of my life. I just wanted to reach out to you and say that i love your blog and your story. I have already visited the old mural of Victors cafe, the statue of José Martí, and I have eaten at La Caridad. I was wondering if you knew of any other Cuban historical sites in New York City, particularly around midtown and the upper West Side, so that i can explore them. Any information would be great, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your content. Alternatively if you’d be interested in meeting for un cafecito sometime it’s always refreshing to connect with someone as passionate about Cuba as I am and who has a holistic view of the Cuban story.

    • Thank you, Chris, for your kind words about the blog posts. I would very much like to get sit down and talk with you about your interests in Cuban New York history. Ironically, I find myself in Miami this year on a sabbatical leave from CUNY. If you ever get down here let me know.

  11. Dear Lissandro,

    I am currently deep in research for a musical I am writing to be featured in NYC this summer. I had a few questions about Cubans in New York in the early 1960’s and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer a few questions. Your blog has been very informative and useful for me!

    Thanks so much!
    Rebecca

  12. Lisandro and Liza. Sorry I missed you at Books & Books last night
    I hear it was tops
    Will call you to share lunch soon
    Un fuerte abrazo
    Arturo

  13. Dear Dr. Perez
    My name is Silvia and live in California. I recently learned that I don’t share the same biological father as my siblings. My mother fled domestic abuse and landed in New York in the late 1960s. While there she had a short romance with a boy named Felix who delivered groceries to the home where she was the maid. Right before she learned she was pregnant, Felix disclosed that he was married with his family in Cuba. My mother returned to her home country where she delivered me. This was 1969. I am wondering if you can help me. You have a great following. I am not looking for anything, other than to know my background.

  14. Congratulation on your most recent book. I never knew about the deep connection between New York and Cuba prior to 1898. As follow New Yorker, I am always fascinated by the amount of connection that the small Island of Manhattan has with the rest of world.

    • I am sorry that I have not been working on my blog recently and that only know I saw your message. Thank you for your kind words about my book.

    • Would you please publish this:
      A Letter to a Boy Named Felix
      I am yearning to meet you; to know you; to know who you are, what you look like. You don’t know me, but we met half a century ago. I was nothing but a cell. You, you were a boy named Felix. Rumors have it, you were a boy from Cuba who delivered groceries from your father’s convenient store.
      One day in 1968, just like that, you completed my genetic make-up. It was your decision-making power as a male to declare me a female. Your genes make the fabric of my very being, the genes that set me apart from my siblings in every which way possible, but mostly the color of my skin.
      Sometimes I want to tell you all about the feelings I am carrying inside but can’t. I can’t, not because you are not here, but because while tears roll down my face, I can’t name such feelings. Sometimes I think it is anger. Other times, think is sadness. Yet other times, I think it is frustration. Reality is, it’s probably none. It is a feeling I can’t really explain. Emptiness perhaps; or perhaps incomplete in every sense of the word.
      The bible talks about the sins of the father. When I lay awake in the dark full of pain all night long, I often wonder if my never-ending pain is my inheritance from genetic composition or because of the sins of my father. Are you the reason why I am I pain? Is it your cross and not mine to bear? If yes, why am I forced to carry it. Without a real answer, I often conclude that if these are truths, and if so, then it follows that it is not universal justice.
      Recently, I went to a conference. My native American brothers and sisters repeated their ancestry background; the importance of being connected and honor your past and ancestors. My thought: Many can turn back or see their past in the rearview mirror. It is how they connect to their ancestors personally, culturally, historically, and biologically. All I see is a dark hole expecting, whishing, yearning that you, a boy named Felix would appear from behind the darkness. Where is the road that connects me to my ancestors? Would I recognize you if you appear? How would your face look like? Do I look like you? I don’t look like my mother or siblings. Therefore, I must look like you.
      With disappointment and grief about not seeing your face, knowing you, your background, I keep looking forward into the future, a future that without events from a past to shape my future or a face to put to the name, looks bleak and uncertain.
      My biggest fear as I write this letter is that you left this earth without knowing my existence. How would you ever have known that I existed when you were never told that you created a human being, a human who when asked her background answers that she was conceived in New York, born in Guatemala, raised in Los Angeles, who lives in Sacramento. This human being is a successful woman in all quantifiable measures, except one. I have failed my journey in finding you. Who are you, where are you boy named Felix?

      Silvia L. Rodriguez, MPPA, MBA
      Technology Policy and Legislation Manager
      Member: DHS Disability Advisory Committee
      Department of State Hospitals
      916-206-7613/LinkedIn/@Sil_L_Rodriguez
      __________________________________________________
      Vice Chair: First5 Sacramento Advisory Board
      Vice Chair: Sac County Maternal Mental Health Collaborative
      Board Member: Sacramento County Mental Health Board
      Liaison to Sacramento County Drug & Alcohol Advisory Board
      Board Member: American Society for Public Administration-Sacramento

  15. Would you publish this?
    A Letter to a Boy Named Felix
    I am yearning to meet you; to know you; to know who you are, what you look like. You don’t know me, but we met half a century ago. I was nothing but a cell. You, you were a boy named Felix. Rumors have it, you were a boy from Cuba who delivered groceries from your father’s convenient store.
    One day in 1968, just like that, you completed my genetic make-up. It was your decision-making power as a male to declare me a female. Your genes make the fabric of my very being, the genes that set me apart from my siblings in every which way possible, but mostly the color of my skin.
    Sometimes I want to tell you all about the feelings I am carrying inside but can’t. I can’t, not because you are not here, but because while tears roll down my face, I can’t name such feelings. Sometimes I think it is anger. Other times, think is sadness. Yet other times, I think it is frustration. Reality is, it’s probably none. It is a feeling I can’t really explain. Emptiness perhaps; or perhaps incomplete in every sense of the word.
    The bible talks about the sins of the father. When I lay awake in the dark full of pain all night long, I often wonder if my never-ending pain is my inheritance from genetic composition or because of the sins of my father. Are you the reason why I am I pain? Is it your cross and not mine to bear? If yes, why am I forced to carry it. Without a real answer, I often conclude that if these are truths, and if so, then it follows that it is not universal justice.
    Recently, I went to a conference. My native American brothers and sisters repeated their ancestry background; the importance of being connected and honor your past and ancestors. My thought: Many can turn back or see their past in the rearview mirror. It is how they connect to their ancestors personally, culturally, historically, and biologically. All I see is a dark hole expecting, whishing, yearning that you, a boy named Felix would appear from behind the darkness. Where is the road that connects me to my ancestors? Would I recognize you if you appear? How would your face look like? Do I look like you? I don’t look like my mother or siblings. Therefore, I must look like you.
    With disappointment and grief about not seeing your face, knowing you, your background, I keep looking forward into the future, a future that without events from a past to shape my future or a face to put to the name, looks bleak and uncertain.
    My biggest fear as I write this letter is that you left this earth without knowing my existence. How would you ever have known that I existed when you were never told that you created a human being, a human who when asked her background answers that she was conceived in New York, born in Guatemala, raised in Los Angeles, who lives in Sacramento. This human being is a successful woman in all quantifiable measures, except one. I have failed my journey in finding you. Who are you, where are you boy named Felix?

    Silvia L. Rodriguez, MPPA, MBA
    Technology Policy and Legislation Manager
    Member: DHS Disability Advisory Committee
    Department of State Hospitals
    916-206-7613/LinkedIn/@Sil_L_Rodriguez
    __________________________________________________
    Vice Chair: First5 Sacramento Advisory Board
    Vice Chair: Sac County Maternal Mental Health Collaborative
    Board Member: Sacramento County Mental Health Board
    Liaison to Sacramento County Drug & Alcohol Advisory Board
    Board Member: American Society for Public Administration-Sacramento

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